Thursday, December 22, 2011

One Thousand Gifts

My dear sister-in-law gave me a book for my birthday that is slowly changing my life.  The book, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, is one that I probably would not have picked up on my own, simply because I don't really have time to read for pleasure these days.  Oh, am I so thankful for this gift, though!  It is not an easy read for me.  The author's writing style is not one like mine and I found that I had to keep rereading what she wrote because I was never quite sure where her emphasis was intended.  This, however, became a blessing because I was forced to read and reread certain phrases and paragraphs and therefore the truths that she penned became more apparant each time I read them again.

I will not give away the details of the book, but I encourage you to find a copy of this if you have the time to read.  And if you don't have the time to read, I encourage you to find a copy and MAKE the time to read!  Ann Voskamp shares a personal, spiritual journey after accepting a dare from a friend to name one thousand gifts in her life.  As she keeps a running list of her gifts, she is drawn closer and closer to the Lord and discovers that in giving thanks, her eyes are opened to a life of gratitude and to the relationship with God that she has been searching for.

After starting this book, I let a friend of mine borrow my copy because I know that she is going through some difficult life experiences and I felt God wanted me to share this with her.  The two of us remind each other often that it is in thanksgiving that we can fully live in Christ.  Eucharisteo - the Greek word for "he gave thanks", speaking of Jesus when He broke the bread and shared communion with His disciples.  The author refers to this word often, and reinforces the grace, thanksgiving and joy that are entwined in this word eucharisteo.  My book-sharing friend and I are growing in our desire to practice and learn eucharisteo - giving thanks in all things.

This past week has brought some very difficult events into our extended family and there has been both rejoicing and weeping.  There have been fears and sorrows and questions and ... peace... yes, peace in the middle of this gut-wrenching storm.  Throughout this trial of 9 days so far, peace and thankfulness are carrying me through.  My heart is breaking because of the unfolding events, but as I take out my own notebook of One Thousand Gifts, I can list my thanks and my blessings and see that God is good and that He loves me and each one of us who are suffering.  He has given such perfect provision in these circumstances that at times, despite my weeping, I run to my notebook and chronicle yet another "gift". 

Hard eucharisteo, giving thanks when it is difficult, brings joy and peace.  It does not discount sorrow nor shame our emotions, but it reminds us that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!  God is good, and He loves me.  I am His beloved.  I hold my hands out empty, to be filled.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Day With My Sons

What a great day I had today!  I was at school all day long and I loved every minute of it!  Today was my day "off", but I was at school longer today than I have been in years and years and years! 

I started out first thing in the morning in Stephen's class.  I helped the kids get their art projects finished and then up on display for Arts Night, where all their work would be displayed for their parents to view.  I also got to help the kids with their math work and truly enjoyed it.  They're working on symmetry right now and their "work" today was to take a mirror and draw different pictures in perfect symmetry.  Now, this may not seem like fun to you, but would it change your mind if I told you that Stephen's math classes are all in French and that his teacher is French and therefore speaks French?!  Even to mother volunteers?!  The kids and I had a good laugh because she would tell me what to do and I'd look at them with a panicked face and they would translate it for me.  They thought they were being so helpful...and they were!

Soon it was time for the first nutrition break, so I surprised Timothy and told him to go get his coat because I was going to take him to Tim Horton's for lunch.  Oh, the look of joy on his face was incredible!  He was beaming so brightly that I thought the whole school would know about our little date today!  Not only was he thrilled to leave school to go have lunch with Mommy, but he even got to have a vanilla dip donut with Christmas sprinkles on it for dessert!  Joy, joy, JOY!  I could have sat there all day watching his face as he ate his lunch with such excitement!  To top it all off, our server somehow prepared two cups of coffee for me by accident and had both of them sitting on the counter in front of us.  I asked her what she was going to do with that second cup and she replied that she was going to give it to me.  I wish I could have captured Timothy's facial expression just then!  He burst out, "Mommy!  Mlle Campbell drinks Tim Hortons!  We could give it to her!"  So we accepted the free cup of coffee and when we got back to school, he so proudly handed her that free cup of coffee and told her it was just for her, once again, face beaming!  Oh, how I wish my eyes were a video camera!  I want to remember those moments forever just watching pure joy on my son's face as he had Mommy all to himself for a lunch date, and then to watch him share that coffee with his teacher - thrilled to give a gift to her!  May my memory retain this day for many, many years!

After Timothy and I finished blessing Mlle Campbell with her coffee, I left Timothy in his class and headed down to Room 1 to spend the afternoon with Christopher.  Unfortunately, my time with Christopher was not initiated because of a pleasant experience.  About two weeks ago, his teacher, Fred and I finally put two and two together and realized that Christopher was being bullied at school so I was invited into the classroom to not only provide some emotional security for Christopher (oh, that just tears my heart to pieces just typing that!), but to be a second pair of hands for the teacher whose hands are way too full right now.  It was Christopher's day to take the afternoon attendance chart to the office and he was supposed to pick a girl to go with him.  He turned around and walked straight over to me and said, "I pick Mommy."  Because of what all my little boy has been through the past few weeks at school, Mrs. W. and I glanced at each other and then quickly looked away because I think we were both ready to lose it.  He held my hand the entire two hours that I was with him today, except when he was at the art table cutting out pictures of an Easy Bake Oven (because that's what he keeps asking for as his Christmas present!).  By the time I left his room, he was comfortably sitting with the class ready to start music class.  We blew each other good by kisses and I left, but not before I made a plan with Mrs. W.

We've arranged that I come in at least every other Thursday, but more often if I can, just to be that emotional support for Christopher.  His class is a tough one this year.  There are two ESL children in there who have anger issues, most likely because of the lack of understanding, and an extremely immature whiner who cried every time something went the opposite of what she wanted, and then there's the bully ... and the rest of the class.  The rest of the class who has to sit there while Mrs. W. has to stop the fighting, quiet the whining and reign in the runner (one of the ESL kids who bolts out the door whenever he feels like it!).  I feel for her.  She's doing the best she can, but she really needed an aide in there!  Thank God, after these incidents with Christopher and a few others in the past few weeks, the principal has finally arranged for her to have some classroom aides assigned to her class!  She told me that things have improved tremendously in the past week because of the extra eyes and hands that she has in there!  While things may be improving, can you please join us in praying for Christopher?  He used to love going to school and now he complains of stomach aches, refusing to get dressed on school days, cries all morning and at the bus stop, etc.  It makes me so sad to see that his joy in attending school is gone.  Pray that it will come back and that he will forget those moments of bullying that have taken place.  We pray every night for the little boy who has punched and kicked him, and we talk often about how it's important to love him despite the hurt he gives Christopher, but I don't want this to affect him long term.

And after that adventurous day at school (oh, did I mention that I also spent about 45 minutes with the art teacher refilling glue bottles?), we headed back there tonight for the Arts Night - a new idea for the annual Christmas program.  I won't dwell on that much because I seriously am trying to establish a heart of thanksgiving in everything, but I will say that it was CRAZY and I do believe that the administration needs to reconsider how they planned things for tonight!  I was thankful to get home after that stressful evening - does that count for my attitude of thankfulness?

It's been a long day, but one I wouldn't have traded for anything!  It's such a blessing to be able to go into the school and work with my sons' teachers, the librarian, the art teacher, the principal.  I want my face to be known in that building and I want the teachers to appreciate my presence instead of dreading it. I want to be a help and a support in their classrooms and to add joy and thankfulness to the days of my sons, their classmates and their teachers.  What a gift this is for me!  What a great day I had with my sons!